The day Dettori ruled the world
Whatever the future holds for Frankie Dettori, his name will forever be etched in Turf legend for what he achieved on an unforgettable afternoon at Ascot in 1996.
Frankie Dettori stands in front of a statue to comemerate his seven wins on one day at Ascot
On Queen Elizabeth II Stakes day, with the BBC cameras rolling, he went through the card with seven winners from seven rides – his 'Magnificent Seven'.
It was a historic occasion within the sport, but it resonated in the big wide world, too, securing a special place in popular culture for the Italian jockey.
Dettori's feat was unmatched, topping the previous best on six-race cards by Sir Gordon Richards at Chepstow in 1933 and Alec Russell at Bogside in 1957.
Willie Carson had gone close with six winners from seven rides on Northumberland Plate day at Newcastle in 1990, though his through-the-card chance had disappeared as early as the third race.
But the status of the meeting at Ascot on Saturday, September 28, ensured that nothing could match the impact of Dettori's supreme achievement.
The cumulative SP odds for anyone who had the good fortune to back the winners – and plenty did – were 25,095-1, though 'early bird' prices suggest the true odds against it happening were 235,834-1.
Dettori began by winning the Cumberland Lodge Stakes (Group Three) on Wall Street (2-1), and followed that when Diffident (12-1) scrambled home by two short heads in the Diadem Stakes (Group Two).
Both horses were owned by his Godolphin paymasters, who also provided his mount in the day's feature Group One race.
Mark Of Esteem was sent off at 100-30 and put up a career-best performance in beating crack filly Bosra Sham by one and a quarter lengths.
Bookmakers were getting twitchy by now, and Dettori did little for their heart-rate by landing an easy victory in the Tote Festival Handicap on John Gosden's 7-1 chance Decorated Hero.
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With the yankees already in the bag, Fatefully (7-4) won the next race, another handicap, by a neck in the Godolphin colours, and number six came up when the Ian Balding-trained juvenile Lochangel (5-4) led all the way for victory by three-quarters of a length in a conditions event.
And so to the remarkable chain of events surrounding the seventh race.
The two-mile Gordon Carter Handicap was the revenge of the mug punters, those long derided by so-called serious backers for filling the bookmakers' satchels with easy money from bets built on ridiculous dreams.
They piled on Dettori's mount Fujiyama Crest to a man – or woman – as the final leg of an unheard-of seven-timer. It couldn't happen, could it?
The big battalions of off-course bookmakers knew they faced massive liabilities already and that 'mug' bets were rolling on to the Michael Stoute-trained four-year-old, who had won the race the year before.
Early-bird punters were locked into a price – William Hill went 11-1 – but there were still millions to be saved in the offices if Fujiyama Crest's odds could be slashed.
The off-course representatives smashed into the horse, but the on-course layers stood their ground.
In an unprecedented situation, bookmakers at Ascot could not believe their luck in the amounts of money being thrown at them at such poor odds, and they wanted to take as much of it as they could.
Hence no amount of money could force the odds to stay below 2-1, which was returned the final SP.
All that could save the bookmakers – both off-course and on by now – was the defeat of Fujiyama Crest.
Dettori bounced him out of the stalls and was soon in front, playing catch-me-if-you-can, and as they turned into the final straight he was still there as the crowd's roars reached frenzied proportions.
Pat Eddery delivered a fierce challenge on Northern Fleet, throwing everything into the finish, but Fujiyama Crest held on by a neck.
Dettori returned to the winner's enclosure among delirious racegoers and shell-shocked bookmakers, while off-course the number crunchers were totting up losses to the industry of about #30million, with Hills over #8m down and Ladbrokes even more.
Two of the 'mug punters' were now half-millionaires, and many others were to be paid out the sort of returns that had fuelled their dreams.
The day was immense for Dettori, both for his unique place in racing history and for his image outside it. Never again would he be a little fish swimming in the shallows of celebrity.
Little wonder then that when the opportunity arose to acquire a special memento of the day, he took it – and bought Fujiyama Crest.
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